When Brandon Morrison, the founder of Lift Big Eat Big, invited us to come train and talk shop, you better believe we jumped at the chance! A few weeks ago we spent some time with Brandon improving old tricks and learning new ones (deadlifts and log presses!) and got a chance to pick his brain about the many misconceptions about female athletes, how to begin training from square one, and lots more.
How long have you been Strongman'ing/powerlifting and how did you find it?
I have been competing in Strongman for two years, and Powerlifting for one year. I found it, like many have found it, by process of elimination. I started with Crossfit four years ago, and remember looking at a photo of huge Russian Powerlifters and thought “Wait a minute, I don’t want to be 165lbs anymore, I want to be huge!” After that, I spent roughly a year just lifting and doing my own thing, trying to figure out the direction I wanted to take my training. Two years ago, almost exactly, is when I started competing in Strongman.
What misconceptions about women lifting heavy weights do you take pride in dispelling? What would you say to a woman who is scared of lifting because she doesn't want to get "bulky"?
I feel that one of the biggest contributions LBEB gives to the strength community is that we are accepting of all fitness/strength goals. Originally, I was fairly dogmatic with my approach to lifting, as are most new people who don’t know of the wide world around them, but I have progressed the business into a model that more reflects my attitude towards training. We don’t preach that women NEED to have a six pack in order to feel good about themselves. If they want one, that’s great! If they don’t care about having one, and just want to get stronger, that’s great too! I think a myth that we dispel adequately (although it feels like beating a dead horse, because we repeat it literally every day) is that heavy lifting is not a sport solely for men. There are women, including women I sponsor, that sometimes make me question my own abilities because their performances are so spectacular.
For question #2, I would say this: Do you avoid reading books, because you don’t want to turn into an English teacher? Do you avoid driving, because you are afraid of turning into a Nascar racer? If getting “bulky” was such an easy thing to attain, you wouldn’t see males pour their souls into the gym, just to gain a few pounds of muscle. Women don’t possess the hormone levels necessary to get “bulky” in the sense that many refer to. Plus, you can lift all you like, but if you aren’t eating more than you require in order to grow, there will be no bulking to be had.
What are some positive ways you've seen heavy strength training impact women's lives? How has it impacted your life?
Some of the most readily apparent ways that I have seen lifting affect women’s lives is how they carry themselves, and how their world view changes. I am not referring to just their attitude in lifting, but in life. I see their timidity and feelings of fragility dissipate, as they start to realize that their bodies aren’t made of glass. Their bodies can take a gym beating, grow stronger, and come back ready for more. I especially enjoy the smiles my female clients give after they easily nail a weight that terrified them just weeks before.
Training has impacted my life positively because it gives me a physical outlet, and a two hour chunk of time where I don’t have to do any thinking or business planning. All I need to think about is the numbers I want to hit, what music I want to listen to, and of course, what spandex I want to train in.
Where do you get your own programming from?
I receive my programming from Alanna Casey. She is 3x Arnold Classic Strongwoman Champion, record-holding Powerlifter, World’s Most Powerful Woman, and most importantly for me, she is my role model. She is one of my sponsored athletes, and we have an interesting relationship. If it’s a business call, I assume the lead role in the conversation, and when we discuss my programming, the roles are reversed. She is very attentive to some of my more unique training needs due to body defects, and has helped me greatly over the past year. It is always nice to have someone else do your thinking for you, Even though I program for a pretty large amount of people, I don’t want to write my own.
What are some of your favorite trusted resources for people looking to start a strength training regimen, and how do you suggest they start?
I would be remiss if I didn’t list LBEB as one of my favorite training sources! I love our extensive list of guest authors, because not only do they bring different viewpoints and training methods with their content, they also know that I require all information to be research-based and backed with scientific evidence: If there is no evidence for it, I won’t post it. My biggest concern is LBEB looking incredible, in the literal sense (ie: NOT credible), and that is really reflected in the content we share.
I believe that the most common mistake a beginner lifter makes is trying to follow too many programs at once, and listening to too many varying sources for guidance. It is important to have a guide when you are new, but there are many different ways to reach your goals, and if you try to do them all at once, you will get poor results. By trying to follow two programs to get twice as strong in half the time, you will get half as strong in double the time.
To alleviate this, simply find a program, any program really if you are new, and stick with it to its completion. Don't add in your own programming to it, and don't ask everyone you see for advice, as too many opinions will just cause confusion in your own training. Asking Pros what they currently do for training doesn't make sense: you aren't a Pro. Instead, look at what the Pro did when they started, to see how they became a Pro.
We all started at square one, and know the struggles that go along with it. Stick with it, think about your end goals, and break up your goals into smaller, achievable pieces.
Do you think women and men face different challenges in regards to achieving strength goals? If so, how are they different and how can we support each other in those challenges?
Yes, I think men and women face different challenges in regards to achieving goals. Unfortunately, most of the problems lie within how others treat those that try to reach goals. Men seem to face detractors mostly from the male population (I call it “nut flexing”). Some men simply don’t want other men to perform better than them, because it reminds them of their own inadequacies.
Women face this from men, as well as other women. I honestly feel terrible for the way that many female lifters are treated, as if “How dare this woman attempt to make herself happy by doing something to better herself?” It is just plain sad to me.
We can support each other with these challenges mostly by keeping our insecure feelings to ourselves. Everyone can see when someone is projecting their own insecurities onto someone else, and detraction can quickly turn a video of a great performance into a fight of whether or not “she looks like a man.”
In regards to nutrition, what is the most important thing most women need to implement in their lives (or get rid of) to achieve their goals?
Good question. Naturally I would say to look at what the research says, in regards to nutrition. This doesn’t mean only looking websites with green/natural/alternative in the title, but actual research that may disagree with your current way of thinking.
Many of my most successful female clients have found their success by sticking to a meal plan I have written for them. The most important part is hitting the daily macronutrients I have prescribed. There aren’t necessarily magical “superfoods” that burn belly fat, fight “toxins”, etc. However, by focusing on macronutrient control, you can still eat all the good foods you like, as long as the macro goals are the same. This doesn’t mean that all your calories should come from Taco Bell, it just means that if you get a craving for ice cream or tacos or pizza, eat it! Life is much too short to not get into a little ice cream.
We love that you support overlooked minorities in the weightlifting community, such as women and the LGBTQ community. Can you comment on where your passion comes from in that support?
I am honestly not sure where it comes from. It probably has something to do with the way I was taught history when I was younger (Homeschooled) and I just remember learning about slavery and feeling a great sense of “wrong” about it. I get the same feeling when I see LGBTQ athletes slandered or discriminated against. It just feels “wrong”, I can’t explain it, I suppose, it is just a deep feeling that this is not how it should be. I became a feminist during college, I remember it was almost like a switch went off in my head that said “slavery may have ended in America in 1865, but injustices still run rampant", and they are so prevalent that we don’t see them as out of the ordinary.
I try to bring that type of thinking to LBEB. I know it pisses off a lot of readers, and I may lose them because of it, but I think with my position of very small influence, I have an obligation to be on the right side of history with things like social justice. This puts me at odds with a lot of lifters, but there are still a great deal of good folks out there who see the same problems I see and are dedicated to bettering them in any small way they can.